The American Enterprise

The view from the plantation.(Mary Chesnut)(Biography)

In the remarkable diary she kept during the Civil War, South Carolinian Mary Chesnut informs us early on that "I was a seceder, but I dreaded the future." For the next four years she records conversations, table talk ("One more year of Stonewall would have saved us"), and rumors of war. But her prophecy of June 1861, frank and enigmatic, stands: "Slavery has to go, of course--and joy go with it."

Twenty years after joy's emancipation, Chesnut revised and recast her journals, imparting to them a literary quality that sets the diary in the first rank of Civil War writings. Edmund Wilson, in his classic study Patriotic Gore, called Chesnut's diary "an extraordinary Document . …

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